(written from a Production point of view)
Odo begins an investigation after a bomb destroys Garak's tailor shop. (Part 1 of 2)
Julian Bashir and Elim Garak are having lunch upstairs at Quark's and discussing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Garak finds it unrealistic that Caesar couldn't have foreseen his own murder – he was a head of state after all. But Bashir has to run back to the infirmary; there is lots of work to be done today. Garak thinks Humans just eat too fast, and he suspects that there is a dark reason that explains it. As they leave, Major Kira Nerys finds Bashir and updates him on the problems she has been having in preparing quarters for the Yalosian ambassador. The combination of gases he breathes dissolved the carpet. Just then, an explosion rocks the Promenade. Bashir sees that it occurred in Garak's tailor shop, and taps his combadge for medical assistance as he runs down to see if Garak's all right. Garak is sprawled on the floor amid the flames and debris, but he is conscious. He tells Bashir that his pants won't be ready tomorrow after all.
Later, Miles O'Brien and Constable Odo are on the scene investigating with tricorders. O'Brien says that the explosion was caused by a rupture in a power conduit behind a wall, which was probably caused by an overload in an ODN juncture. Odo grunts his disbelief, noting that it is quite a coincidence that something like this would happen to Garak, of all people. Garak does have many enemies. O'Brien announces he's detected nitrilin, a rare substance which could be the residue of a micro-explosive device. Odo theorizes that it was planted on the conduit to make the explosion look like an accident. Commander Benjamin Sisko orders all ship departures temporarily delayed.
In the infirmary, Garak rhetorically asks why anyone would want to kill a simple tailor. Odo scoffs and reminds Garak that he was in the Obsidian Order. Garak says Odo should not listen too much to the doctor and his "flights of fancy". Sisko urges Garak to take the matter seriously. Garak recalls that there might be a few people who might want him dead, including Major Kira. Odo says that if Kira wanted him dead, he would be. Garak doesn't think that the incident has anything to do with his exile from Cardassia. After all, the Cardassian Finance Ministry usually does not kill anyone. But no one believes that tax evasion is the real reason for Garak's exile. Garak's prevarications anger Sisko – he does not like explosions on his station. Garak promises to let them know if he can think of anyone who'd try to kill him.
Garak is upset, apparently, that no one believes him, even though he is telling the truth. Bashir asks if he has ever heard the Human story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Garak says no, so Bashir tells him the story, concluding that the moral is that if you lie all the time, no one will ever believe you, even when you do tell the truth. Garak, however, thinks the moral of the story is that you should never tell the same lie twice.
In the security office, Odo asks Garak to look over the passenger manifests to see if he can spot a name that might ring a bell. O'Brien comes in and tells Odo, quietly, about some more results of the investigation. Odo thinks they indicate the presence of a pheromonic sensor, which can be used to detonate a bomb when a specific species comes in range. They're known to be used by Flaxian assassins, and Odo observes that a Flaxian came on board the station that day.
Odo interrogates the Flaxian, a Mr. Retaya, in the wardroom. Retaya was a merchant dealing in fabrics and fragrances. As he asks the Flaxian questions, Odo pretends to be interested in purchasing a fragrance for a friend, but as he has no sense of smell himself, asks Retaya for his opinion on some of Retaya's products. Odo mixes two fragrances together – floral and musky. Retaya says that together, they're very nice. Odo asks how they'd be with a spicy perfume added in. Retaya says that he doesn't think Odo's lady friend would like it. Odo moves to add the third, and Retaya stops him assertively. Odo says that the three fragrances, when added together would create a poisonous gas. Retaya says he didn't know that; he merely stopped Odo because he was sure that Odo's friend wouldn't like it. Odo tells Retaya that he'll let him know when he can leave the station.
Later, on the upper level of the Promenade, O'Brien tells Odo that the transponder has been installed on the Flaxian's ship. Odo will be able to track the ship up to a half light year away. Arriving at a runabout, Odo finds Garak already there, expecting to go with Odo to follow the Flaxian. Odo tells him to leave, but Garak is insistent, and Odo relents. They depart, and just as the Flaxian ship goes to warp, it explodes.
Afterward, in the wardroom, the crew discusses what happened. Lieutenant Jadzia Dax observes that an odd pattern they received through the transponder could have been caused by a forced neutrino inversion. Odo notes that that's a known Romulan tactic, and speculates that they killed Retaya after he failed to kill Garak. Garak says he has no idea why the Romulans would want to kill him. This angers Sisko again, but Odo is sure that this time Garak is telling the truth, since he isn't spinning out elaborate lies to cover up the truth.
Later, in a subspace communication, a Romulan member of the Tal Shiar verifies that they did in fact kill Retaya, and they did it legally since he was guilty of crimes against the Romulan Star Empire. Sisko and Odo find her story a little too convenient. They discuss Garak's uncertain past and decide that Odo will go to Cardassia to see if he can find out anything from his contacts there.
Odo meets his contact in a cave on a barren moon. Odo's contact, staying in the shadows without letting Odo see him, confirms that the Romulans have something to do with the attempt on Garak's life. But the attack on Garak is merely a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Cloaked Romulan warbirds have been detected near the Cardassian border, although it is unlikely they're planning to invade Cardassian space. Also, the contact tells Odo that five other Obsidian Order operatives were also killed the day before, three from "natural causes" and two had unfortunate "accidents".
Garak is shocked – and exuberant – when Odo informs him of the dead operatives. Odo explodes with anger and accuses Garak of blowing up his own shop. Odo explains that he realized when he spoke to the Flaxian that he wasn't responsible, as assassins don't like to change their methods – the Flaxian had actually been planning to poison Garak. Odo then theorizes that Garak knew that the Flaxian was going to try to kill him and planted the bomb in his shop to get Odo involved in such a way that Garak wouldn't have to explain why someone was trying to kill him and guesses that Garak took perverse satisfaction in seeing his shop burn to the ground. Garak admits that his shop's destruction didn't upset him, then tells Odo that he and the other five were close associates of Enabran Tain, the retired head of the Obsidian Order (and, notably, the only head of the Order to live long enough to retire) but he really does not know why Romulans would want him dead. Garak calls Tain and reaches Mila, Tain's housekeeper. But Tain's not there – he left in a hurry the day before. Mila has him promise to help Tain, and Garak agrees. When the communication ends, Garak asks for a runabout, and Odo says he's coming with him.
Bashir sees Garak off at the airlock, giving him the Delavian chocolates he gave him earlier, saying Garak needs it more than he does. He thanks him and leaves. Once on the runabout, Odo and Garak take a runabout to the third planet of the Unefra system, where Tain has a safe house. Garak tells Odo that Tain was directly responsible for Garak's exile, but won't say why he'd risk his life to save him. Odo guesses that Tain was Garak's mentor and cares about him, despite the exile. But Garak will not confirm nor deny it. Garak retorts by pressing Odo if Odo truly understands humanoid emotions or has any feelings for anyone. Odo won't say, and Garak says that's a wise decision.
Later, a Romulan D'deridex-class warbird decloaks above the runabout and tractors the runabout into a bay. Odo tries to send a distress signal, but it's jammed. They're boarded by Romulans and taken to the ship. On board the warbird, Garak and Odo are taken to the bridge, where they find Enabran Tain. Tain says Garak has spared him the effort to send someone else to kill him.
Asked about the apparent end of Tain's retirement, Tain says that the ship they are on is part of a Romulan/Cardassian joint fleet that will be soon heading through the wormhole and into the Gamma Quadrant. Odo sees that they plan on attacking the Dominion in a bold first strike. When Garak asks about the Cardassian Central Command, Tain tells him that Central Command knows nothing about it; this is a joint operation of the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar, the intelligence agencies of the Cardassians and Romulans, respectively. They have been building a fleet in the Orias system, a mystery to the Central Command and Starfleet since earlier that year. They intend to wipe out the Founders on their homeworld, defeating the Dominion in one swift stroke. Odo now sees that the Romulans shared the intelligence they received from Starfleet on its location.
Garak asks why this plan required killing retired operatives. Tain explains that he intends to resume his active role in the Order, and that he does not want anyone from the old days, who might know a thing or two about Tain, to complicate matters for him. Garak says that he never betrayed Tain, and there is no reason to kill him. Tain believes Garak, and offers him a choice: he can walk away and Tain won't try to hurt him, or he can join Tain on the mission and all will be forgiven. Odo reminds Garak of all the things Tain did to him – the exile, the attempt to kill him, but Garak doesn't care. He joins Tain, saying, "I'm back."
"This is serious, Garak."
"I'm being serious. I don't think she likes me."
"She doesn't. But if she wanted you dead, you would be."
- - Julian Bashir, Garak, and Odo, on Kira
"About those atmospheric specifications you requested for the Yalosian ambassador?"
"60% nitrogen, 10% benzene, and the rest hydrogen fluoride, as I recall."
"Well we ran a test in one of the guest quarters. The mixture is so corrosive it dissolved the carpet."
"Don't look at me. It's what they breathe."
"Then I guess we'll just have to rip out the carpets."
"Be sure not to replace it with anything red or orange."
"They don't see that part of the color spectrum."
- - Kira and Bashir, talking about the Yalosian ambassador
"You wanted to see me?"
"I have bad news for you. Major Kira has an airtight alibi."
- - Elim Garak and Odo
"I seriously doubt the Finance Ministry would try to have me killed for failure to pay my taxes."
- - Elim Garak
"But the point is, if you lie all the time, nobody's going to believe you, even when you're telling the truth."
"Are you sure that's the point, doctor?"
"Of course, what else could it be?"
"That you should never tell the same lie twice..."
- - Julian Bashir and Elim Garak, on the lesson of The Boy Who Cried Wolf
"I'm not about to leave you alone in here so you can look through my security files."
"What makes you think I haven't already looked through them?"
- - Odo and Elim Garak
"The truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination."
- - Elim Garak
"I take it you don't believe her either."
"But the question still remains: why would the Romulans want to have Garak killed?"
"I don't know. Considering those uniforms of theirs, you'd think they'd appreciate a decent tailor."
- - Benjamin Sisko and Odo, regarding the Tal Shiar
"Well, that's an interesting way of scrambling a signal."
"Yes, I thought you might appreciate it, on an aesthetic level."
- - Odo and Elim Garak
"Is there anything you need me to do while you're gone?"
"I don't know. Any unfinished business?"
"Actually, doctor... there is something."
"If you go into my quarters and examine the bulkhead next to the replicator, you'll notice there's a false panel. Behind that panel is a compartment containing an isolinear rod. If I'm not back within 78 hours, I want you to take that rod... and eat it."
"Yes doctor, I am."
- - Julian Bashir and Elim Garak
"Or am I wrong? Tell me, is there one person in this universe that you care about? One person that is more to you than just an interesting puzzle to be solved. Is there, Odo... anyone?"
"If there were, I certainly wouldn't tell you..."
"And that... would be a wise decision."
- - Elim Garak and Odo
Story and script
- Robert Lederman and David R. Long's original idea for this episode revolved around the punishment exacted upon Garak by the Obsidian Order for his killing of Entek in the episode "Second Skin". Garak realizes that someone is planning on assassinating him, so he blows up his own shop to ensure Odo gets involved. Although the producers loved the idea of Garak blowing up his own shop, they dropped the link to "Second Skin" and instead decided to connect the episode to another previous episode, this time "Defiant". Specifically, they chose to reveal exactly what the Obsidian Order was up to in the Orias system. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The episode was originally a stand-alone episode, but the writers realized that the story's original ending was too weak, and decided to expand the plot to accommodate a second part. Initially, in Act 4 of the single episode script, Garak tells Bashir that if anything should happen to him, there is an isolinear rod behind a wall in his quarters which the doctor should give to Sisko. Then, at the end of the episode, with Garak and Odo trapped on the warbird, Garak tells Tain that if he doesn't let them go, the information on the rod will be revealed to Starfleet. As such, Tain releases them and the audience never find out what is on the rod. The writers hated this ending, as they felt it undermined an otherwise superb episode, but they were unable to come up with anything more satisfactory. As Ronald D. Moore points out, "Everything we tried was just a writer's device or a cliché or a convenience or a cheat." That was until Michael Piller, in his last decision as executive producer, suggested they turn the show into a two-parter. This necessitated a quick rewrite of the end of the episode so as to lead into part II. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The second part of this two-parter, "The Die is Cast", was not the next episode to be shot. Because it was never intended to be a two-parter, pre-production on "Through the Looking Glass" was already well underway when "The Die is Cast" was green-lit. As such, the episodes were shot out of sequence and the airdates of this episode and "Through the Looking Glass" were flipped. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- This episode marks the appearance of a new style of Tal Shiar uniform. This redesign was Ronald D. Moore's idea. After he watched the episode "Visionary", he came to feel that the old style Romulan uniforms were unacceptable and he had Robert Blackman give the design an overhaul; "I hated, underline hated, the Romulan costumes. Big shoulder pads, the quilting, I just loathed it. I begged, insisted, screamed, pleaded." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Ron Moore commented "I like the episode. It was probably one of my favorites, the other being 'The House of Quark'." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 95)
- Ira Steven Behr was disappointed by the lack of media interest in this episode, following what he found was little media interest in the two-parter "Past Tense, Part I" and "Past Tense, Part II". "We did the 'Improbable Cause' two-parter, and I thought we were going to get great media attention, and basically nothing again," Behr stated. "It's amazing, because I think it's really quality TV. I liked everything about the episodes. They're about as good as Deep Space Nine gets." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 80)
- This was the first Star Trek two-part episode with different names for Part I and Part II. It was also the first episode within a two-parter (or multi-part story arc) to be directed by a cast member (Avery Brooks). Jonathan Frakes had previously directed "The Search, Part II" and "Past Tense, Part II", but he was not a regular on Deep Space Nine.
- This episode (along with "The Die is Cast") was broadcast by the BBC in a feature-length format on its first airing on 13 March 1997.
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) and Armin Shimerman (Quark) do not appear in this episode. A scene was scripted with Quark talking to Odo, Bashir and Garak about Retaya and can be found in the script. Quark says of the Flaxian "he didn't have the eyes" of a salesman.
- This was the first appearance of Julianna McCarthy on the series. Her character Mila appeared in a greater capacity in "The Dogs of War" and "What You Leave Behind".
- While discussing the dining experience with Bashir, Garak misidentifies a Kobheerian for a Talarian. This was not the last time such an error would be made, as Sisko would later misidentify a Markalian as a Tarkalean in "Time's Orphan"
- A script from this episode was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
- Garak refers to the Flaxian as "the only witness in this case", but that's not true - there were many witnesses, and the Flaxian didn't see the explosion. He means to say, "the only suspect."
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.10, 7 August 1995
- As part of the DS9 Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Avery Brooks as Commander Benjamin Sisko
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys
- Andrew Robinson as Garak
- Carlos LaCamara as Retaya
- Joseph Ruskin as Cardassian informant
- Darwyn Carson as a Romulan Tal Shiar operative
- Julianna McCarthy as Mila
- Brian Demonbreun as a Human science officer
- Kathleen Demor as a Human security officer
- Alexander Denk as a Romulan stormtrooper
- Randy James as Jones
- Robin Morselli as Bajoran officer
- James Lee Stanley as a Bajoran security deputy
- Michael Zurich as a Bajoran security deputy
- Unknown performers as
act; advisor; alibi; Alpha Quadrant; analysis; assassin; Bajoran; Bajoran wormhole; benzene; biomolecular scan; Boy Who Cried Wolf, The; Brutus, Marcus Junius; Caesar, Julius; Cardassia; Cardassians; Cardassian border; Cardassian Central Command; Cardassian Finance Ministry; Cardassian government; Cardassian neck trick; Cardassian space; cobbler; confidante; constable; D'deridex-class; Danube-class; Dekora Assan; Delavian chocolate; Dominion; Dominion cold war; eating; exile; explosive device; farce; fashion; Ferengi; Flaxian; Flaxian ship; floral; forced neutrino inverter; Gamma Quadrant; generation; heart attack; Human characteristic; Human eating; hydrogen fluoride; indigestion; Japori II; Julius Caesar; magneton relay; Milky Way Galaxy; military tactician; mistaken identity; Mother Goose; musky; Nausicaan; nitrilin; nitrogen; Obsidian Order; operative; Orias system; passenger manifest; phenomenon; pheromonic sensor; plate; poison; Promenade; Quark's; racial slur; replicator; Roman Empire; Romulans; Romulan Star Empire; Romulus; runabout; safe house; Shakespeare, William; shepherd; sociology; spicy; subspace energy surge; supposition; suspect; Talarian eating; Talarian; tragedy; transponder; Tal Shiar; tractor beam; tricorder; Unefra III; Unefra system; warbird, Romulan; wedding suit; wolf; Yalosian; Yalosian ambassador; Yridian (Yridian debtee)
- "Improbable Cause" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Improbable Cause" at Wikipedia
- Improbable Cause at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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